Linda and I returned from speaking at the Valentine’s Getaway at Fair Havens on Sunday night. (Thanks to all who prayed; it was an impactful weekend for all of us). After settling in, we watched a recorded version of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in PyeongChang.
Even though I’ve seen many opening ceremonies, I still was moved by the parade of nations. Over 2,000 athletes from 92 countries marched into the arena, cheered by almost 35,000 spectators. Athletes from countries whose governments are at odds (Iran and Israel; North Korea and the USA) smiled and waved to crowds and cameras. Four South Korean recording artists joined voices to sing John Lennon’s anthem, “Imagine.” The song invites us to “imagine there’s no heaven . . . hell . . . countries . . . religion.” Instead, “the world will be as one.”
It’s not hard to join those who dream of a day when peace comes to our broken, bleeding world. When hostility gives way to harmony. When adversaries become allies. In some ways, the opening ceremony gives us a tantalizing glimpse of this dream.
But sadly this dream, like so many dreams, vanishes all too quickly. In two weeks, the Olympics will end and our world will be as fractured as it was before the games began. John Lennon’s song will remain as imaginary as it was when he recorded it in 1971.
But there is hope. There is coming a Day when the longing for unity between nations will become reality. But contrary to John Lennon’s song, this lasting peace will not be achieved by human efforts or by denying the eternal realities of heaven and hell.
Unity between people only comes as we are united in Christ. His death on the cross broke down “the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14), giving all who trust in him “access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). He takes “strangers and aliens” and turns them into “members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
In Revelation 7, we get a glimpse of a heavenly parade of nations that dwarfs any Olympic Opening Ceremony:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Revelation 7:9-10).
The longing for peace and harmony among people is a worthy one. But it will only become a reality when people are united in worshiping the Worthy One–the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why Jesus calls us to bring the good news of the gospel to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20).
One day, heaven will come to earth (Revelation 21:1-2) and all who have trusted in Christ as Saviour and Lord will live together as one! Best of all, there will be closing ceremony!